The throne is empty: Who will take the "lead"?

The new duo is currently fighting for leadership in the European Union.

Source: Tanjug
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Shutterstock/ Ivan Marc
Shutterstock/ Ivan Marc

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi are coming out to fill the gap on the European throne at a time when the era of German Chancellor Angela Merkel is coming to an end, writes the Brussels portal Politico.

While Germany is occupied with internal affairs ahead of the September elections, the Franco-Italian political duo and their allies have already worked on launching a 750 billion-euro EU COVID recovery plan and are now focused on several goals: reforming bloc spending rules, signing bilateral agreement based on the French-German model and association in joint industrial projects and judicial cooperation, writes Politico.

The portal states that the two European politicians have a lot in common, both are former investment bankers who see the bolder and faster EU as a cure for domestic difficulties, and also share pro-EU, market and centrist views.

Most importantly, they both know that it is time to act now, while Draghi's rating is high, before Germany gets a new leader and while Macron is fighting for re-election.

The Franco-Italian alliance began last summer when Macron and then-Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte advocated an ambitious plan to recover from the pandemic, and since Draghi took power earlier this year, the alliance has only strengthened.

However, there are many obstacles on the path of French-Italian domination, the thrifty northern states will certainly not support further spending and financial integration, while the central and eastern powers will continue to defy Macron's social-liberal leadership.

Moreover, just two years ago, French-Italian diplomatic relations were at the post-war level, according to the French Foreign Ministry, due to migration disputes, conflict of goals in Libya, the Italian Foreign Minister who flirted with the Yellow Vests movement and the recall of the French Ambassador to Rome.

The newly discovered enthusiasm in the relations between Paris and Rome became obvious at the beginning of this month, when Italian President Sergio Mattarella went to the French capital on his first trip abroad since the lockdown, and Macron called Italy a sister country.

Draghi's coming to power in Italy only further improved ties, and the two leaders aim to sign a bilateral agreement called the "Quirinal Treaty", which in many ways resembles the French-German Elysée Treaty of 1963.

The content of the agreement has not been published, and the MP from Macron's party, who chairs the "Franco-Italian Friendship Group" of the French National Assembly, Christophe Di Pompe, believes that the signals sent by the two governments are more important than the actual provisions of the future agreement.

"As soon as we have an agreement between France and Italy, regardless of the content, we change the European balance of relations," Di Pompe told Politico.

There are other examples of loosening relations between the two countries, last spring France abolished the protection of far-left Italian terrorists, and Macron described it as a gesture of friendship.

As for industrial issues, there are also signs of improvement, the project of merging car manufacturers has succeeded, and last week, the French Minister of Economy, Bruno le Maire, confirmed that he would include Italy in some Franco-German projects.

Although it is approaching Italy, France still does not forget about Germany and is careful not to create the impression of calling for softer fiscal rules due to its own debt, and it is expected to continue seeking French-German consensus on this and other issues, Politico concludes.

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